„Whatever has not been fully suffered and resolved, will reappear“
Ultimately, trauma is not a psychological issue. Instead, it is a physiological, bodily response to a potentially life-threatening situation (e.g. war, natural disasters, physical and sexual abuse, severe diseases, experiences of loss, early separation of one’s caretakers, challenging prenatal experiences, a difficult birth, emotional neglect as well as accidents, falls, injuries, surgeries, dental treatments, anesthesia).
Trauma is generated by, among other things, failure of defense on the part of the body. In a potentially life-threatening situation, the body mobilizes huge amounts of energy in order to fight or flee. After having fought or fled, the body usually manages to regain its homeostasis. If, however, neither fight nor flight are possible, there is the ultimate fallback position: a freeze response (“playing possum”), which the body resorts to in order not to feel the pain and to survive the shock. As a result, the abundantly activated survival energy might not get discharged and can get “stuck” instead.
This situation can lead to subsequent physical and also psychological problems because, on the unconscious level, the body continues to respond as if the threat still existed.
Somatic Experiencing (SE)® is about the bodily and mental “renegotiation” of the traumatic event.
For this purpose, the event as such does not necessarily need to be relived. It is also possible to work without content and specific memories, since working with SE does not rely on the event as the cause of the trauma, but on the body’s response to what has happened. This is particularly valuable in cases where the memory of the event is too stressful to address it directly, or when dealing with symptoms which are not associated with any available specific memory of a traumatic experience.
In working with SE, the frozen energy gets discharged gradually to prevent the nervous system from getting overwhelmed again. Moreover, it helps to integrate whatever transformation may have been achieved. This way, we can reactivate our natural capacity for self-regulation and develop or regain our confidence in our own skills and abilities.